Strip Searches: What is Their Constitutional Viability After the Supreme Court’s Redding Decision

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Education Law Reporter


redding, strip search, schools, fourth amendment


The U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Safford Unified School District v. Redding (Redding) was the Court's first decision involving strip searches in schools. However, Redding followed, over a period of twenty–four years three other cases that addressed issues of student privacy and searches: New Jersey v. T.L.O. (T.L.O.), Vernonia School District v. Acton (Vernonia), and Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls (Earls). Vernonia and Earls held that as long as public schools have in place procedures to protect student privacy in terms of collecting urine samples and notifying schools of positive results, random suspicionless drug testing fulfilled a school's purpose of preventing the use of illegal drugs by students involved in extracurricular activities. Vernonia and Earls did not address whether suspicionless drug testing would be permissible during the school day when students were participating in academic subjects pursuant to state mandated compulsory attendance, but the Supreme Court's emphasis on the voluntary nature of extracurricular activities suggests strongly that suspicionless drug testing would not be constitutionally permissible during the school day. The location of Vernonia and Earls between T.L.O. and Redding reinforced the notion that students have constitutionally protectable privacy rights but leaves searches during the academic part of the school day to a different kind of individualized suspicion legal analysis that the Court explored in T.L.O. and Redding.


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